Empire of the Saviours (Chronicles of/Cosmic Warlord 1) (65 page)

D’Selle passed along the infinite corridors of the labyrinthine Great Temple, undoing untold numbers of retainers with his mere presence, but hardly noticing it. They aged so quickly when one of his kind was near that they were of no moment or consequence. They were fallen leaves, grains of sand, drifting dust.

He ascended to the First Sanctum, the only place his kind ever came together in numbers. It was here that the exercise of the Council’s judgement and will was witnessed. He climbed with mounting excitement, eager to see D’Shaa undone. Never before had he seen one of his kind ended. He twitched at the wonder, terror and thrill of the prospect. When was the last time he’d known something
new
? And this wasn’t just the discovery of some new flower or insect. It was something that would tell him more about his existence and own kind.

He hurried into the perfectly spherical chamber, rings of seats rising from the bottom of the sphere to the top. The majority of his kind occupied the seats of the largest ring, which was halfway up, and the rings just below it. His own rank, of course, sat higher up, where there were fewer seats. Elder Thraal sat in one of the highest circles, all alone. Clearly, the other elders had resolved to remain in their near-permanent repose. D’Selle put aside his disappointment: he would not be replacing Elder Thraal today then. No matter – he was sure to have more and greater opportunities in the near future, once he’d claimed the spoils of his most recent victory.

He began to ascend the stairs to the circle of his own rank, wondering when D’Shaa, as the Subject of Judgement and Will, would be led in to stand at the bottom of the sphere.

‘No, D’Selle!’ spoke Elder Thraal’s mind into the silence of the First Sanctum. ‘You will rise no further.’

There were mental gasps from the gallery of rings. D’Selle’s eyes dilated to their extremities. D’Shaa sat in the higher circle! She should be here below instead of him! How could this be? No! He was not the Subject of Judgement and Will. No! Treachery!

D’Selle sought to leave the sphere, but the Will of the whole held him in place. He could not stir even a fraction. His thoughts were deliberately slowed so that he could not escape into the waking dream.

‘Mine is the voice of Judgement,’ Elder Thraal mentally intoned for all to hear. ‘D’Selle, organising intellect of the west, ordered his Saint into the southern region without the prior invitation or permission of D’Shaa, organising intellect of that same region. That alone is deserving of censure. Worse, D’Selle’s Saint was tasked with removing a primary agent of the Geas from the dynamic of control I had already instituted. The primary agent was the boy Jillan, who was controlled in a dynamic between D’Shaa’s Saint and the Peculiar. If D’Selle’s Saint had managed to remove the boy, the dynamic of control would have become an uncontrollable gyre of destruction. All know of what the Peculiar is capable. The foreknowing Council is in no doubt that the Geas and this world would have been lost to us forever. Therefore, it is the Judgement of all that D’Selle put our Will and our kind at fatal risk. The Will of all is that D’Selle’s existence be ended. With the permission of the Council, D’Selle’s sustaining energies will be divided among the rest of our kind. Raise him to the centre!’

D’Selle was dimly aware of his feet leaving the bottom of the perfect sphere and the power of his kind’s Will drawing him to the exact centre. He slowly spun in space, their black eyes hungry voids. They began to Draw his energies from him. Here, at the end, he understood his own existence and the nature of his kind.

Elder Thraal settled himself back into his chamber. All had passed as he’d intended. He’d elevated the inexperienced D’Shaa precisely to draw out and destroy the overly ambitious D’Selle, but also to see the highly dangerous D’Zel hampered by a self-preserving Declaration. Even more, it was Elder Thraal who’d encouraged D’Shaa all that time ago to make the erratic Azual her Saint. It had served to make her region unstable and to draw out the pagans and Geas. Now the Geas was inescapably connected to the boy, who would inexorably lead them all to Haven. At long last the Geas would be claimed by the Empire, and the Declension would have the power to continue spreading through the cosmos. This world would serve as a jumping-off point. And it was
his
will that made it a reality. The Declension would have no choice but to raise him to a rank of cosmic dominion.

There were none of any lower rank left to challenge him: D’Shaa was now probably the most pre-eminent of the organising intellects, but she would be too busy appointing a new Saint and trying to wrest back proper control of her region to get up to any mischief. Just to be on the safe side, however, he would instruct her to make the zealot Minister of Godsend her new Saint. And it was time to recall General Thormodius and his army from the east. They would see to it that the south was subdued and culled, and that Godsend was wiped from history once and for all. The lack of a sizeable army would also force Saint Dionan to adopt a new approach towards the barbarians and pagans in the east. After all, the pretence of peace could often prove more subtly subversive than the contention of war.
Now, who to make the new organising intellect of the west? Hmm
. And some task for the Disciples might serve several purposes at once, not least of which was removing them from the Great Temple and their positions guarding the Great Saviour himself.

She put her lips to his and kissed him, gently at first and then with a passion that was painful. He didn’t mind – far from it. It was only when he couldn’t breathe any more that he pulled her away from him. He gasped and panted and then looked at her with an embarrassed smile. He took her hand.

‘You’re shaking.’ Hella laughed. ‘One minute you’re taller than the sky and pouring down magic on a holy Saint, and the next you’re scared of a kiss.’

‘I am not! Anyway, so what if I am?’

‘Haven’t you kissed many girls before?’

‘Of course I have! Loads. How many have you kissed, then?’

‘I don’t kiss girls!’ she giggled.

‘That’s not what I meant.’

‘I know, silly. I was just teasing.’

‘Oh,’ he said, feeling foolish. He scratched his head and looked down at his feet. Then he looked back up at her, smiled and laughed out loud.

She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him again. This time he made sure to breathe through his nose so she would never stop.

With a sword of sun-metal bent round his head the Peculiar crouched, watching Jillan and the girl kissing beneath the tree. He would let them have this moment – not because he was sentimental, but because it was important the boy have something or someone to keep him motivated and willing to sacrifice himself during the times and trials ahead. If the boy did not develop some sort of attachment here and now, the Peculiar would not be able to manipulate him so easily in the future. So let him have this.

The Peculiar knew a moment was both a place in time and a force. Brief and apparently inconsequential though it might seem, applied just so it became the infinitesimal fraction that tipped something of incalculable magnitude out of kilter. A kiss could destroy worlds, perhaps the entire cosmos.
Just look at how my theatrical but precisely timed stand upon the wall lured Torpeth into ripping the sun-metal helmet from my head, in turn for the vainglorious Azual to place it upon his own brow, an act that ultimately proved his undoing. See how my giving but a single drop of my power to the Saint finally forced Jillan to embrace his power and become the weapon of my will. Ah, how simple and easily controlled is this world. Neither the Geas nor Empire can hope to stand against me, the Lord of Mayhem. Indeed, the Geas and Empire are as easily manipulated as the boy himself. My place in the cosmos will soon be fully restored
.

And all I have to do is wait. I will not insist that the boy fulfil his end of the binding bargain that we made upon entering Hyvan’s Cross until he has restored himself. First let him break bread, raise a toast, share stories and swear lifelong friendship with his pagan comrades-in-arms – Aspin Longstep, snow-haired Slavin and the troublesome Torpeth – before they must return to the mountains to bury Braggar and choose a new chief. Let him toil, laugh and smile next to stoical Samnir, stubborn Thomas, dear Freda, Ash the Unclean, Jacob the trader, solid Haal and sweet Hella, as they begin to rebuild Godsend in the time ahead. Let him engage in this labour of love and begin to think of starting a home with his beloved, as the season of spring sees the forces of life renewed. Let him not fear the newly fled Praxis and Captain Skathis for some while to come. Let the people and Heroes of this region, now freed of the control of their Saint, begin to know themselves. Let them look upon the world in wonder as if seeing it for the first time. Let the Godsenders take this boy into their hearts and build a town that will stand against the Empire and cause the elseworlders no end of trouble. Let these mortals remember what happiness is, so that they will have something other than the boy to sustain them and will not resist me unnecessarily when I come to take him from them. Let them offer him up in sacrifice to the God of Chaos and let them worship me again, as the people did once before
.

Here ends the first of three
Chronicles of a Cosmic Warlord
.

Jillan’s struggle continues in the second chronicle:

GATEWAY OF THE SAVIOURS.

A note from the author

I grew up reading Raymond E. Feist, Michael Moorcock, Stephen Donaldson and Harry Harrison. I studied Christopher Marlowe and Edgar Allen Poe at university (along with a few other writers, obviously). Mix it all together and you end up with a style of fantasy that is darker than the average and sometimes called ‘gothic fantasy’ or ‘metaphysical fantasy’. At its heart, it attempts to take on some serious considerations about this thing called life, but often ends with an amused shrug, an ironic quip or a simple toast raised and shared by friends. It seems that it is the journey that counts more than the destination. To put it more poetically perhaps:

Tread lightly, love deeply and love joyfully
,

for we are stalked by time and shadows
.

On this journey, I could not have come so far without the help of many, many people, including all those who purchased copies of my first three books:
Necromancer’s Gambit, Necromancer’s Betrayal
and
Necromancer’s Fall
. Without the sales statistics you provided, I suspect I would have remained a struggling author for another twenty-five years. I have to make special mention here of my good friend Oliver Flude (
www.oliverflude.com
), who provided the necessary book covers in exchange for a few pints of (pretty thin) ale, and did the original sketches for
Empire of the Saviours
to boot.

Which brings me to my wondrous editor Marcus Gipps, who did so much to help
Empire of the Saviours
secure a deal with Gollancz. Thank you for letting me spell ‘forever’ as one word. Thank you for letting me spell it ‘woodsman’ instead of ‘woodman’. And for the faith!

Lastly, I would like to thank those fantasy authors who still keep me intrigued and inspired: George R. R. Martin (of course), Peter V. Brett, Robin Hobb, J. V. Jones, Paul Kearney and anyone who has ever written a Gotrek & Felix novel.

Enough wittering from me. Time to get
Gateway of the Saviours
finished. For the latest:
www.ajdalton.eu
.

Copyright

A Gollancz eBook

Copyright © A J Dalton 2012
All rights reserved.

The right of A J Dalton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

First published in Great Britain in 2012 by
Gollancz
The Orion Publishing Group Ltd
Orion House
5 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane
London, WC2H 9EA
An Hachette UK Company

This eBook first published in 2012 by Gollancz.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978 0 575 12316 8

All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor to be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

www.ajdalton.eu
www.orionbooks.co.uk

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